Yoga: Then and Now

YogaWe have all used our minds to search for excuses to bunk the yoga classes/ physical training sessions we had in school. But have we ever tried to understand their importance? Lets us start with a little information and history of yoga. Only then will we be able to view its significance.

According to Gavin Flood, Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, it has been defined as referring to “technologies or disciplines of asceticism and meditation which are thought to lead to spiritual experience and profound understanding or insight into the nature of existence.” Yoga is also intimately connected to the religious beliefs and practices of the other Indian religions.

There are many branches of yoga like, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, established by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as Yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of thought.

The history of yoga stems right from the Indus Valley Civilization. Several seals depict yogic postures, proving that knowledge of yoga existed at that time also. There is considerable evidence to support the idea that the images show “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga”, according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl. He points to sixteen other specific “yogi glyptics” in the corpus of Mature Harappan artifacts as pointing to Harappan devotion to “ritual discipline and concentration.” These images show that the yoga pose “may have been used by deities and humans alike.” Possehl suggests that yoga goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization.

Very recently in year 2007, terracotta seals were discovered in the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan. Punjab University Archaeology Department Chairman Dr. Farzand Masih described one of the seals as similar to the previously discovered Mohenjodaro seals, with three pictographs on one side and a “yogi” on the other side.

People may practice yoga for their own reasons, but the ultimate goal of yoga is to attain Moksha, which is liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), at which point there is a realization of identity with the Supreme Brahman.

Nowadays, yoga has become the “thing” to do, escalating it popularity. Problems related to the heart, blood pressure, problems related to bones, body weight, and many more are solved with its practice. The people, who practice yoga, are not only generally very healthy, but because their mind is calm, tend to be happy and cheerful also.

Anjuri Nayar